Phoenix Raven Airmen are a special breed

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • 421st Combat Training Squadron Public Affairs
Students in the Air Mobility Warfare Center’s Phoenix Raven program here face many challenges in their quest to attain a coveted security forces Raven patch. 

The course, taught by the 421st Combat Training Squadron, originated in the late 1990s after a need was seen to better protect military aircraft in an expeditionary environment. 

The definition of a Raven, according to Tech. Sgt. Kelly Tabor, Raven course instructor, is “an Airman, Sailor, or Soldier who has readily accepted the responsibility to ensure the success of our force protection mission. They are all volunteers and are prepared to travel at a moment’s notice anywhere around the world to protect Department of Defense assets for as long as it takes to complete the mission.” 

Ravens also must be of the highest caliber and always use judgment that will reflect well on missions abroad, said Tech. Sgt. Bruce McPherson, NCO in charge of the Phoenix Raven program. 

“Ravens are put in a stressful environment to handle situations professionally and tactfully,” Sergeant McPherson said. “The extensive training given to students here is in unarmed defense tactics, application of the force continuum, less-than-lethal-force weapons, anti-hijacking and firearms training. 

"Ravens need to be able to think and communicate in stressful situations in order to accomplish the mission," he said. "This makes the course challenging and dynamic for a Raven candidate.” 

The 24 students in the most recent Air Force Phoenix Raven course came from all over. Many of them are Air Force active duty security forces members, but there are also Guard and Reserve security forces as well as Navy masters-at-arms security personnel. 

The students receive nearly 130 hours of instruction during their nearly three weeks of training. There are more than 50 hours of classroom academics along with anti-terrorism, pressure point control techniques, collapsible baton, weapons and scenario training.  In addition, the students have to pass a rigorous physical training regimen.

“I like the physical and mental challenges the course presents,” said Senior Airman Michael Tucker, a security forces journeyman attending the course from the 3rd Security Forces Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. “The course pushes you and your body further than you thought was possible.” 

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Carl Hurtt Jr., from Det. 71, Mobile Security Squadron 7, Naval Forces Command Marianas, Guam, said the physical parts of the training are challenging, but the educational aspect is also “very helpful” in teaching him to “think first before acting.” 

“The training and the program as a whole offer me another look at how law enforcement work is conducted in the ever-changing environment since Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. 

From start to finish in the training, camaraderie is emphasized among the students. They march together in formation between classes and they exercise together. They essentially work together in nearly every aspect of the course. 

“This course allowed me to test myself against my peers and the cadre who teach the course,” said Airman 1st Class Andrew Prunitis, a security forces journeyman from the 305th SFS at McGuire AFB, N.J. “The team approach by the cadre motivated me to do better.” 

"The toughness of the course and its rigorous schedule are all meant to point the students toward success," Sergeant McPherson said.  "And if you ask any of the students, they’ll tell you the level of sacrifice it takes to meet the challenges."

“You have to have heart, character, charisma, intestinal fortitude and other various traits to tough out this three-week course,” said student Staff Sgt. Nicholas Roberts, a security forces journeyman from the 62nd SFS at McChord AFB, Wash. “If you are here it’s because your unit thinks you are the ‘best of the best.’ You are getting a chance to gain a certification that less than 10 percent of the Air Force security forces members have.” 

According to Sergeant Tabor, there is really only one thing that becomes their greatest weapon upon graduating from the course. 

“Their discipline, fortitude, and ability to think quickly will ensure success in providing force protection anywhere at any time,” Sergeant Tabor said. “Despite numerous hours spent perfecting unarmed hand-to-hand combat techniques, Raven graduates understand their most powerful asset is their mind.” 

Staff Sgt. April Apo, a security forces craftsman from the Nevada Air National Guard's 152nd SFS in Reno, said becoming a Raven has taken her to a “higher level” in her career and her life. 

“I wanted to become a part of the elite,” Sergeant Apo said. “The tools I learned during the Raven course not only will help me in the security forces career field, but also how I conduct myself as a person.”